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Kidnap alert has 100% success rate

Media, mobile operators, road networks and public transport work together to get message out when child is abducted

THE SAFE return of a four-year-old boy who was abducted in Brittany this weekend shows how France's kidnap alert system works - with a 100% success rate since it launched a decade ago.

The Alerte-Enlèvement is modelled on the Amber alert scheme in the US and Canada, and aims to get details of a missing child out to the public as quickly as possible.

It was the founder of radio station Skyrock, Pierre Bellanger, who came up with the idea of introducing a similar scheme in France in 2002. The government carried out a feasibility study two years later and it launched in 2005.

The alert is triggered by the justice ministry, on the request of a local public prosecutor, when a family reports that a child has been kidnapped and their life is in danger.

Hundreds of television and radio stations around France have signed up to the initiative, agreeing to broadcast the alert on their channels and on their website within three hours of it being issued.

National press agency AFP also publishes the alert. SFR sends out text messages, motorway operators display the alert on roadside signs and the SNCF and Paris public transport operator RATP also broadcast the message.

Since its launch, the alert has been used 16 times. The first was in November 2005 when a young girl was kidnapped in Maine-et-Loire. She was found 30 hours later.

The latest use, at the weekend, enabled four-year-old Rifki to be found within a day of being taken from his mother in Rennes, Brittany. He was found 450km away in Libourne, near Bordeaux.

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